Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is considered by many to be the most important Russian poet of her generation. Her life, which coincided with some of the most turbulent years of Russian history, was one of extreme hardship. She was first and foremost a poet – everything else was secondary: ‘Through the indifference of grey moss / I proclaim – there will be poems!’ (‘Certainty’). In Bitter Berries, Moniza Alvi and Veronika Krasnova have translated a selection of poems from her later years, covering themes such as exile, conflict, and a poet’s fate, and conveying this poet’s range, depth, passion and power to astonish. The pamphlet is illustrated by the artist Katya Krasnova.
Moniza Alvi’s Homesick for the Earth, her versions of the French poet Jules Supervielle, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2011. She received a Cholmondeley Award in 2002. Three of her poetry collections have been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Her most recent book is Blackbird, Bye, Bye (Bloodaxe, 2018). Veronika Krasnova graduated from Moscow University where she studied English and American literature. Her most recent translation was a selection of poetry by a contemporary Russian poet Stanislav Smelyansky, to appear in Holocaust Poetry: An Anthology edited by Jean Boase-Beier (Arc Publications). She teaches Russian language at UEA.
‘Bitter Berries is a stunning new rendition of Tsvetaeva’s lesser-known work, revealing a fierce and unexpectedly modernist sensibility in her later lyrics. Moniza Alvi and Veronika Krasnova’s translations are both flexible and lapidary, their imagist spirit enhanced by the inclusion of fragments of Russian text and Katya Krasnova’s elegant graphics. These bittersweet and moreish poems mark a significant contribution to Tsvetaeva’s oeuvre in English, and will be relished alike by new readers, established lovers and scholars of one of Russia’s most important and enduring poets.’
Born of this world yet not quite of it, the ghosts that haunt the poems in Mike Barlow’s Some Kind of Ghost play with parallel realities, the alternatives – imagined, remembered, sensed and intruded upon – that shadow the everyday and taken-for-granted. Shifts and shivers, blind faith and fear, unspoken thoughts, hindsight, false trails, a missed beat in conversation, all lead to that ‘knife-edge feeling / as the will to fly competes with gravity’ (‘Ridge Walking with Maddy’). Condensed and surefooted, the poems have a deceptive ease and informality which bridge the inner and the outer worlds to take you somewhere unexpected.
Barlow’s first collection, Living on the Difference (Smith|Doorstop, 2004), won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition and was shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize. This was followed by two further collections, Another Place (Salt, 2007) and Charmed Lives (Smith|Doorstop, 2012), and a number of pamphlets, one of which, Amicable Numbers (Templar, 2008) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. He is a former winner of The National Poetry Competition.
‘Poems of a wonderful fluency and scope imbued with a sense of the mystery that underlies all things.’
‘Family voices, landscapes, back rooms: some of the routes by which Mike Barlow explores his own ghosts. These are poems in which “you hear your own heartbeat / amplified” (‘The Stump Cross System’), and share the rich texture of connections between the living and the dead.’
D. A. Prince
‘Yeats would have called them ‘Presences’, the ghosts Mike Barlow calls up or finds himself visited by in these lovely poems. Each has a substantiality which belies the merely wraith-like, as in the heart-breaking last stanza of ‘Posthumous’, where the widow of a dead soldier wakes “all hours now, / His warmth nudging her, wanting it. / She rolls over on top and the chill / Of his absence takes her breath away”.’